Map showing Expansion of Hamas rocket range in Southern Western Negev
In the fall of 2005, Israeli forces left the Gaza strip. By international agreement the Rafah border crossing was to be monitored by EU observers, to prevent the smuggling of arms. The Hamas, a militant, genocidal terrorist group, took over the Gaza strip after winning elections. A unity government between the Hamas and Fatah factions came to an end after the Hamas staged a coup and murdered the Fatah.
Hamas has announced repeatedly that they will never make peace with Israel. They insist that all of Palestine is a holy Waqf given to the Muslims by Allah. Their charter declares that negotiations and international conferences are a waste of time. Jihad (Holy War) is the only war. Their mission, as they declare, is to kill all the Jews, because the end of days cannot come before every Jew is slain.
Hamas and other groups began raining Qassam Rockets down on Israeli towns even before Israel left the Gaza strip. As soon as Israel left, the stream of rocket fire increased.†† They were small home made Qassam rockets with a range of a few kilometers, that could reach the town of Sderot. Life became hell in Sderot. No self defense measures Israel took were effective. In June of 2006, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, from inside Israel, in a planned terror operation. Rocket fire on Israel increased after the Hamas coup and became intolerable.
When Israel tried to cut supplies to Gaza, international pressure forced it to resume supplies.† In June of 2008, Israel concluded a truce agreement with the Hamas, mediated by Egypt, under pressure from the UN and Western powers. Hamas used the truce to smuggle quantities of arms into the Gaza strip. When they took power by force, they dismissed UN monitors from the southern border crossings and insisted that they must be able to bring in anything they wish from Egypt. Egypt sealed the border, but the Hamas dug tunnels that they used for smuggling everything from cigarettes to refrigerators to mortars, explosives and rockets.
In December of 2008, Hamas declared unilaterally that the truce would not be renewed unless Israel agreed to let them import whatever they wished. In a single day, December 24, Hamas rained dozens of rockets on Israeli towns.† Israel launched operation Cast Lead (Oferet Yetzuka) to stop the rocket fire. The increase in range of the† renewed Hamas rocket fire demonstrated how they had taken advantage of the truce to import arms, while all the while managing an international propaganda campaign about a supposed humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Prior to the truce, in June of 2008, the Hamas rockets were homemade Qassams with a range of perhaps 10-12 kilometers. Their approximate range is shown by the green curve in the map below.† Following the resumption of rocket fire, Hamas rockets reached about 45 kilometers into Israel, hitting as far north as Yavne and as far west as Beersheba. The range is demarcated by the black curve in the map below. It includes major cities such as Beersheba and Ashdod.†† If they are not stopped now, in a few months, Hamas rockets will probably reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.††
Media often remind readers that Hamas rockets "do mostly property damage" and do not kill people. The "little" home made Qassam rockets could and did kill people who were unlucky enough not to take shelter in time. But the Grad rockets that Hamas has at the end of December 2008 are far more lethal. These are military ordinance designed to kill people - meant to be fired at soldiers on a battlefield. Hamas are firing them at random into large civilian towns and even cities. Sophisticated warning systems and extensive shelter facilities have prevented major casualties, but there have been fatalities. On December 29 rocket and mortar fire killed two Israelis in Ashkqelon and a third was killed by mortar fire in the Western Negev.